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Bumper wheat crop is possible this year

LANSING, MI -- "Managing high yields" is among the sunnier-sounding topics on tap for the wheat field day MSU Extension will host on a farm near Mt. Pleasant. And given the outlook for Michigan's 2015 wheat crop, it's as timely a topic as it is sunny.

If spring continues on its favorable path toward summer, the state's wheat growers could see a statewide yield approaching 40 million bushels. That would equal a record high, according to data from the USDA's National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS), Great Lakes Regional Office.

Wheat production in the state is expected to be 38.8 million bushels. The forecast yield of 76 bushels per acre would better last year's output by two bushels and add up to 38.8 million bushels statewide.

A lot can change before the midsummer harvest, but Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) Field Crop Specialist Kate Krepps said the crop appears to be in outstanding condition.

"As you drive across the state you'll see more wheat fields than in previous years, likely in some part due to lower corn and soybean prices last fall," she said.

Michigan farmers expect to harvest 510,000 acres, up 25,000 acres from last year.

Fast-maturing hybrids also help growers work wheat into their rotations with increasing flexibility.

"Shorter-day varieties allow for cover crops like wheat to be planted more frequently, providing additional opportunities for our farmers," Krepps said. "If this favorable spring continues as predicted, we're likely to see the positive results in the yield and production of wheat in Michigan this year."

Wheat's ability to prosper in dry conditions means moist, humid Michigan is not a major player in North American wheat production. The grain is a far more dominant crop in the central and northern Great Plains, from Kansas and Oklahoma north to Alberta and Saskatchewan.

According to the Michigan Wheat Program, wheat sales from 2008 through 2010 averaged $218 million annually with a total annual economic impact of $388 million. The state's top-five wheat-growing counties are Huron, Sanilac, Lenawee, Tuscola and Saginaw.

Most Michigan-grown wheat is destined for human consumption; different grades and varieties are suited to baked goods, pastries, tortillas and pasta. Michigan-based wheat processors include Star of the West Milling Company in Frankenmuth, King Milling in Lowell and Chelsea Milling Company, home of Jiffy Mixes.